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Weather Catastrophes Underscore Need For Business Plan

By Steve Tarter, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Nov. 25--PEORIA

It's been a tough couple of years for small business. Hurricane Sandy devastated small businesses in New York and New Jersey, just the latest example of the problems created by extreme weather.

In 2011, floods, blizzards, hurricanes, tornados, hailstorms and other weather-related events caused a record $380 billion in global economic loss.

Severe hail and thunderstorms caused billions of dollars in damage last spring while the past summer was the hottest on record with drought adversely affecting farms, crops and livestock.

Small businesses are at an increasing risk for significant and often unexpected losses, said small business insurance expert Ray Sprague.

"Business owners need to be prepared with the right insurance coverage in the event of a catastrophe," said Sprague, a senior vice president with the Hartford's small commercial insurance division.

Hurricane Sandy, a storm that cut a huge swath across the country, left many businesses -- literally -- under water, he said. But small businesses can prepare -- even for a disaster of the magnitude of Sandy, said Sprague.

"The first thing is to work with an insurance professional who understands your business to develop a package of protection. Next, keep records with you and, finally, develop a business resiliency plan," he said.

"Business resiliency means what do you do when the power goes out, for example," said Sprague, noting that he's had a generator at his Connecticut home for the past two years. "This was the year I needed it," he said, referring to power outages that followed in Sandy's wake across the East Coast.

But while the eastern part of the United States took the brunt of Sandy's wrath, catastrophic weather events can strike any area, said Sprague. "It might be a tornado or a wildfire but the key to getting a business back on its feet is preparedness," he said.

Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter's phone number is 686-3260, and his email address is [email protected]. Follow his blog, Minding Business, on and follow him on Twitter @SteveTarter

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